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Letters from the editor: Dear L.A., please visit

July 13, 2011|By John Canalis

Hand it to Visit Newport Beach.

The city's travel bureau found opportunity in misery. The silver in the silver lining.

Good business ideas solve problems. Got dirty clothes? Buy Tide. Can't find stuff online? Go to Google.

Don't want to sit in your car or house during Carmageddon? Weekend in Newport Beach.

Problem solved.

No one knows whether there really is a problem — or at least a major one. With Angelenos afraid to fire up their Priuses from Friday night to Monday morning, Carmageddon could easily become another Y2K.

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Nevertheless, Newport is betting on those who don't want to take their chances by positioning itself as the best place to escape from L.A. The coordinated effort started in June after L.A.'s mayor urged Angelenos to go on vacation while the 405 underwent elective surgery.

The ads in newspapers and on radio — still the best place to reach people in their cars — are alluring.

Avoid the gridlock, Newport seems to whisper in its best Don Draper voice. Spend time in our hotels, restaurants and spas. Visit our beaches. Avoid the crowds.

As staff writer Mike Reicher reported in Tuesday's Daily Pilot, Visit Newport aims to capitalize on the freeway closure. And why not?

The idea is simple: There's a respite from the madness, and it's in Newport Beach. It's a tried-and-true recipe — Angelenos have long visited the Orange Coast — with a new twist: Carmageddon.

Newport Beach is not alone. There are deals at hotels in Palos Verdes, Santa Monica and other staycation destinations. Everyone is on the Carmageddon cart.

But from what I've read, Newport Beach's effort is unusual in that it is reaching out with a coordinated effort involving multiple businesses.

"It was an opportunity that was handed to us," Gary Sherwin, president of Visit Newport Beach, told Reicher. "If there has ever been a motivation to get out of L.A., this is it."

Agreed.

Even if the marketing effort doesn't increase, um, traffic, Newport Beach hoteliers are not overly concerned. This is, after all, the high season for tourists — a term I wouldn't apply to Angelenos.

Call them guests.

JOHN CANALIS is editor of the Daily Pilot, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and john.canalis@latimes.com.

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